Local food banks prep for Hunger Action Month
Ozarks Food Harvest gives more than 450,000 meals to Barry County residents
The Ozarks Food Harvest has called for residents across southwest Missouri to take action and raise awareness about hunger during September's Hunger Action Month.
"This year's Hunger Action Month is especially meaningful to us, as our latest study of hunger in our region just revealed our member pantries and programs are serving more than 260,000 people each year," said Bart Brown, president and CEO of Ozarks Food Harvest. "That's a 69 percent increase over who we thought we were serving together."
Springfield-based Ozarks Food Harvest covers 28 counties, including Barry County, said Lindsey Neddenriep, public relations manager for Ozarks Food Harvest.
In fiscal year 2014 (July 1, 2013, to June 30), Ozarks Food Harvest provided 453,293 meals to Barry County, which had the equivalent in value to $902,054, Neddenriep said. The numbers increased by 51,126 meals, or $100,937, from fiscal year 2013.
The Ozarks Food Harvest serves at least 200 nonprofits in southwest Missouri.
In Barry County, the Ozarks Food Harvest serves the Cassville Community Food Pantry at the Cassville United Methodist Church, Helping Hands Community Food Pantry in Eagle Rock, Rock Springs Baptist Church in Seligman, and Central Community United Methodist Church in Shell Knob.
It also serves the Cassville Senior Center, the Monett Senior Center and the Shell Knob Senior Center, which are part of the Southwest Missouri Office on Aging.
In fiscal year 2013, Ozarks Food Harvest provided Barry County with $10,200 in additional grants -- $2,500 to Cassville Community Food Pantry and $2,500 to Helping Hands Community Food Pantry, and both pantries received two-door industrial coolers to help store perishable items.
In fiscal year 2014, Ozarks Food Harvest provided Barry County with $3,000, which went to the Cassville Community Food Pantry for food.
In fiscal year 2015, Ozarks Food Harvest announced on Sept. 3 another grant opportunity for its agencies to possibly receive part of $40,000.
"It will be competitive, but hopefully Barry County agencies will apply again," she said.
People do not just have to donate money for food during the month, Neddenriep said.
"Go to one of those local food pantries in Barry County and serve your time volunteering or maybe host a food drive that helps one of those agencies directly," she said. "And then, for people who don't have the time but they have the voice, they can participate online.
"There a lot of tools on our website. [People] can share a statistic or an image on Facebook or Twitter or whatever people might use just to help spread awareness about the issue [of hunger]."
The Cassville Community Food Pantry and the Alliance of Churches Food Pantry in Shell Knob are partnering with the Arvest Bank branches in Cassville, located at 503 Main St., and Shell Knob, located at 24832 Highway 39, for the 1 Million Meals initiative, an effort by Arvest to provide at least 1 million meals to those in need. People can drop off non-perishable items and monetary donations at either branch until the company-wide campaign ends Nov. 1.
The Cassville branch has done the initiative for two years, said Karen Mitchell, a senior teller at Cassville. Mitchell and fellow teller Jazmin Rivera are co-chairs of the community food drive at the Cassville branch.
The Cassville branch hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to noon Saturday. The Shell Knob branch hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information about the 1 Million Meals Initiative, people may visit arvest.com/millionmeals.
Beginning Monday, people can vote for Ozarks Food Harvest and its partner pantries to receive $60,000 from Walmart's "Fight Hunger Spark Change" at walmart.com/fighthunger. Voting ends Oct. 5.
Ozarks Food Harvest is in the running to receive the funds, Neddenriep said. If it wins, Ozarks Food Harvest will share the funds with nonprofit pantries in Buffalo, Greenfield, Joplin, Mansfield, Mountain Grove, Nixa and Springfield.
Feeding America food banks are celebrating Hunger Action Month throughout the U.S. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 49 million people across the country are food insecure, possibly not knowing how to get their next meal.
For more information about Hunger Action Month, people may contact Ozarks Food Harvest at 417-865-3411 or visit ozarksfoodharvest.org.